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Lest We Forget - a teacher's story

Thursday, November 10, 2016

By Anthony Chuter - Upper School teacher, Technological Ed. 

Photo of war veteran

Who will YOU think about on this Remembrance Day?

I owe my life to a coal ship. On June 2nd 1940 and on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, my grandfather, Private and Royal Engineer Alan Chuter, found himself and his unit vastly outgunned and outmanned by the relentless Nazi panzer tanks on the ground and Luftwaffe planes from above. Retreat was the only option as a surrender of around 400,000 British troops may have cost the Allies the war in their fight for freedom against fascism and imperialism. Eventually, the retreat led them to the English Channel and with little other option they jumped into the sea with the hope of being picked up and returned to the relative safety of Britain. Under Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s orders, almost every seaworthy vessel was deployed, successfully evacuating about 360,000 soldiers in an event called now known as the “Miracle at Dunkirk” and thankfully, a coal ship picked up my grandfather and brought him back home to his young bride. My father was born after the war in 1948 and so I literally owe my existence to that ship.

I learned this story and a few others when connecting with my family last year as I prepared for our World War Two unit in our Grade Ten Canadian History course. Thanks to the help of my English relatives and some research at the Imperial War Museum in London, I discovered that my grandfather also produced a war diary which provides a fascinating and authentic record of his” tour of duty” liberating towns with his unit in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany after the successful D-Day landings in June 1944. It is an amazing individual document that mirrors exactly the final days of resistance before the ultimate surrender of Nazis. I re-created a digital version of his journey using this site.

On Remembrance Day this November 11, I will be wearing my poppy and thinking about him, my family and all families when I consider the sacrifices, dedication and hard work of our brave men and women in uniform in Canada and around the world who keep us safe. From the First World War, to the Second World War, to the Korean War to those who serve bravely today, I invite everyone to find and share their own personal connection to these conflicts and appreciate the sacrifice of the men and women of our Canadian armed services who are ordinary people who serve and protect us in extra-ordinary circumstances.

Who will you think about?